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Coroner releases findings into competitor death at Australian Surf Life Saving Championships

Coroner releases findings into competitor death at Australian Surf Life Saving Championships
January 17, 2016

Junior surf lifesavers competing in future surf life saving championship events should be made to wear helmets and lifejackets, a coroner has said at the inquest into the 2012 death of 14-year-old Matthew Barclay.

Barclay died after he went missing during a board race at the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships at Kurrawa Beach on the Gold Coast on 28th March 2012.

Coroner Terry Ryan found Matthew had been knocked unconscious and drowned, and that he could have been saved if he had been wearing a flotation vest.

Coroner Ryan made five recommendations, including that Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) make helmets and lifejackets mandatory for under-17 competitors, and that rescue teams be on hand for all surf craft events.

He looked into the adequacy of the policies and procedures in place at the 2012 Australian Surf Life Saving Championships relating to the postponement or abandonment of competition for the safety of competitors.

Coroner Ryan also examined the application of those policies and procedures to the conditions present at Kurrawa on the day the teenager died.

He said he had been unable to find that SLSA incorrectly assessed the conditions on the day, and he recognised the inherent risks of the sport.

Matthew Barclay's father Stephen Barclay welcomed the coroner's findings, telling the ABC "it's clear that Matthew was knocked unconscious, and as a parent that gives me great comfort.

"It's also clear that Matt could only have been saved if someone had got in the water in that crucial four to five minutes."

He expressed his disappointment that extra safety precautions had been taken earlier, particularly after the death of lifesaver Saxon Bird in 2010.

Bird, 19, died after being hit in the head by a surf ski and knocked out.

SLSA President Graham Ford said the organisation would consider all five of the coroner's recommendations, stating "we're doing all we can, but inherently the surf conditions as the coroner said are quite dangerous; they're quite precarious."

Ford added that he would issue a formal response shortly after taking time to "consider everything".

Image of Matthew Barclay courtesy of Facebook.

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